Patient information

Transthoracic echocardiography

What is a echocardiogram?

An Echocardiogram or Cardiac ultrasound uses high frequency sound waves to evaluate your heart. This is done by obtaining two dimensional and Doppler (blood flow) images with an ultrasound device. Ultrasound waves are sent into the chest using a probe, with ultrasound gel, that is moved over various angles. The sound waves are transformed into pictures, which allow evaluation of the:


Structure – normal cardiac chambers and valves and abnormalities such as blood clot, tumour, holes in the walls


Size - the thickness of the heart muscle and the size of the pumping chambers or the blood vessels


Heart function: namely strength of contraction and relaxation of the heart muscle


Valves - if your valves leak or if they are narrowed

Are there any risks to this procedure?

The high frequency sound waves used for the echocardiogram are not known to cause any adverse bioeffects. Echocardiography is a safe and painless procedure.

Are there any risks to this procedure?

The probe does not interfere with breathing. There is no risk of heart damage from the exam. On the day of the exam, you might experience slightly blurred vision and slower reaction times as a result of the sedative medications. For a day or two after the exam, you may feel some slight throat discomfort. You may also have slight irritation of the vein at the IV site. Please notify staff if you have any allergies.

Are there any limitations to an echocardiogram?

Sound waves quickly lose their ability to penetrate with increasing distance. If you are overweight, have significant lung disease or breast implants, it may be difficult to get good images of the heart.

Why do you need a echocardiogram?

An echocardiogram may help evaluate:


Unexplained chest or upper arm pain


Heart attack


Heart murmur and the progress of valvular disease


A structural heart defect


Shortness of breath


Presence of many types of heart disease


To monitor effectiveness of medical or surgical treatments


To monitor deleterious effects of medications e.g. chemotherapy

How to prepare?


Wear a shirt that can be easily removed. We will have a gown for you to wear.


Women will remove shirt and bra.


No special eating instructions.

How long is the test?

The test will take approximately 45 minutes.

When will you get your result?

Your doctor will discuss your results with you after your test is complete.

If you have any questions about your test or instructions, please call us on 8837 9141 (or extension 141 from within Westmead Private Hospital).